Growing up, everybody assumed I would do something with computers. I guess I thought I would too – I would get really excited about manually trimming down the HTML of my AIM profile to maximize the content, or learning DHTML to make each section of my very lengthy Winamp-generated HTML playlist expand and collapse. I even started college at VCU as a double major in piano performance and computer science, but only made it one semester before deciding that the CS part wasn’t for me and dropping it.
From there, I went on to do a master’s degree in piano accompanying and chamber music (or collaborative piano) at the renowned Eastman School of Music. In my second year, I had a student job as a computer lab monitor, and because I was the VP of the graduate student association and computer-savvy, the technology staff showed me how to get a page going on the website for the GSA, in between restocking printer paper and showing somebody how to burn a DVD. This meant Dreamweaver with mostly HTML and a tiny bit of PHP to include template parts, and suddenly I was hooked again.
Turns out computer science wasn’t the problem – it was working with a compiled language to create desktop applications and operating systems that was extremely boring to me. The instant gratification of PHP, HTML, and CSS combined with the expressiveness and openness of the web was what I needed all along. One day, my friend Chris Foley over at the Collaborative Piano Blog emailed to ask me if I’d ever heard of WordPress, which I had not, but when I saw it supported static pages (a thing Blogger did not at the time), I went and made a WordPress-powered personal website for myself as a musician.
After graduation, I found myself a 22 year-old craving stability, needing health insurance, and completely lacking the desire to go do a doctorate. That was the push to find a full-time job, and I got lucky: Eastman was hiring for a mid-level web developer, and despite not actually being mid-level just yet with the computer part, they valued my deep knowledge of the school itself and gave me a shot. I also still worked as a pianist, sometimes even dipping out of the office for a couple hours in the afternoons for Eastman Wind Ensemble or Musica Nova rehearsals, but the deed was done: I was a programmer now.
One of my big projects while there was building a blog (RIP Polyphonic.org) and since our main site was on PHP and MySQL, WordPress seemed like a natural fit, so off I went, learning how to integrate with WordPress and navigate a messy realm of plugins. I started following along with beta releases to be ready for upgrades, and saw chatter about something called multisite, which meant that you could have one WordPress installation powering many subsites. I thought to myself, well, that sounds pretty perfect for a school – departments, offices, and studios can all have their own sites! I managed to get everybody on board, and once again set off to do something totally new to me.
Since I was wanting to take advantage of upcoming features, I was running beta versions and seeing things morph and change all the time. I had learned a little bit about Subversion to release a plugin I wrote for our site, and read about this thing called the GPL, which intriguingly said that I had the right to examine the code, make modifications, and share those modifications. I impulsively drove down to WordCamp NYC 2010, where people were talking about “contributing to core” – making modifications and sharing them back. I had never dreamed of doing such a thing, but coming from a musical background with open sharing and feedback forums like masterclasses, it seemed natural and the idea stuck.
One day, I saw a little border that seemed like it was the wrong color, and even though it was small, it bothered me (this is probably unsurprising to anybody who’s worked with me in any capacity). You can read more details about that whole experience here, but in short, I created a patch, submitted it, got a code review, and it became a part of WordPress! Once again, I was hooked.
A month later, it was time to move to Kansas along with my now-husband for his first job in academia. I needed a new job that could move with me, and having just gone to WordCamp Boston while incidentally in Boston, I was futzing around on Twitter like I saw everybody else doing. I saw a retweet from a WordPress book author I was newly following from some other WordPress person I’d never heard of, looking to hire a full-time remote WordPress developer. So I shot my shot, and became the first employee at 10up in August of 2011. I started on client work like any agency employee, but within a few months of starting at 10up I was given a few hours a week to contribute to WordPress, quickly scaling all the way to full-time open source work in 2013. Confession: I had no real sense of what an agency even was, much less that I was about to be the first employee at one that would grow to be almost 300 strong over the next 10 years.
After over 10 years at 10up, I decided to move into a role where I can still support open source but not serve as a maintainer in the public eye for my day-to-day. Today I’m a Senior Engineering Manager for Special Projects at GitHub and continue as one of five lead developers of WordPress itself, which has gone from ~13% of the web to more than 40% in the time I’ve been working on it.
That’s a lot of writing about work – I’m also very much a person. Despite my now-significant Twitter presence and the way it appears, I am actually fairly private about the day-to-day details, but here are some things I’m open about:
- I am married to a Costa Rican clarinetist who I’ve been performing with since 2004 and we have two amazing children.
- I consider Virginia Beach my hometown – shoutout to the Neptunes, Missy Elliott, Timbaland, Teddy Riley, and more – but I am a New Yorker by blood and have spent about half of my life in and around NYC.
- I didn’t learn to cook until after grad school, but now I love it and I frequently post pictures of things I’m making, which sometimes includes Pizza Rolls because, you know, that’s what you eat when you don’t know how to cook anything besides rice.
- I also post pictures of shoes, which means I buy a lot of shoes, and you know what, I’m just fine with that being my internet personality.
- I continue to play the piano, even if it’s mostly just for myself these days.
- I still really, really, really, really love making playlists, I just don’t have to write DHTML to share them anymore.